Top Tips for Saving Money on Driving and Car Maintenance

In the current economic climate, it feels as though the cost of living is rising on an almost daily basis without a similar rise in the level of our salaries. All but the most wealthy members of the population have had to make adjustments to their outgoings, but what can we do about those things that we still absolutely have to spend money on?

Traffic jam on the M4

Above: Picture taken by Paul Townsend

We all need food, we all need a roof over our heads and for many of us, especially outside of London, having our own method of transport is something without which we couldn't manage.

However, the cost of fueling and maintaining a car is becoming an ever increasing burden and therefore it might be useful to look at some top tips for reducing the costs associated with driving and car maintenance.

Prevention is better than a cure

A little regular effort to keep your car ticking along can help you to avoid hefty bills further down the line. Making sure that you keep the oil topped up, that you check your lights regularly and replace broken bulbs, etc. are all small things that can be done easily even if you're not a mechanic. Ask a friend or family member to show you, or search for a handy YouTube tutorial and you'll be on your way.

It's also possible to undertake several basic pre-MOT checks yourself, prior to sending your car in for its annual test and this guide from Which should help you get started. Even if you come across problems that you can't fix yourself, at least you can draw them to the attention of the garage when you car is being checked. It also means that you'll have prepared yourself for the potential costs, as opposed to being hit with a big bill out of the blue.

Find out more about fuel-efficient driving

There is a lot of advice around about how to make your driving style more fuel-efficient and thus save yourself some money on petrol or diesel. When applied individually, these steps may not make a huge difference, but combine a few of them and you will definitely see a change.

Some tops tips that are given out by many experts are as follows:

  • Regularly check oil, coolant and brake fluid.
  • Service your car appropriately according to the manufacturer's instructions (these can be found in your vehicle's handbook, but if you don't have this you can search online or call a dealer that specialises in the make of car you own).
  • Check tyre pressures at frequent intervals. If you do need to order replacement tyres, this can be done online at a cheaper price than you'll find at a garage, though obviously you would need to fit the tyres yourself.
  • Don't drive excessively fast, as speeds of over 50mph have been shown to use fuel more quickly.
  • Reduce drag on the car by removing roof racks, cycle racks, etc., and close the windows when you are driving at speed.
  • Don't overload the car with baggage (or passengers!).
  • Don't coast, i.e. allow the car to travel while it is out of gear. This was once thought to be a technique for increasing fuel efficiency but has now been shown to be unsafe.
  • Don't idle - if the car is stationary for any length of time you should switch the engine off.
  • Get your tracking (the alignment of your wheels) checked for free (many garages will do this).
  • Cut down the use of unnecessary electricals and air conditioning in the car, as these increase fuel consumption.

Shop around when spending money on your car.

Look out for special offers when it comes to servicing your car - some places will do combined MOT/servicing options for cheaper than purchasing the two services separately.

Build up a good relationship with your local garage and they may do small jobs for free. Also, garages that are part of a national chain will have less flexibility when it comes to their prices, whereas you may be able to haggle at smaller, independent places. One money saving tip is to offer to course your own replacement car parts from scrap merchants and then just ask the mechanic to fit them.

When purchasing your car, take the time to go through your various warranty options, which will vary according to the make and age of your car. It might be worth buying a warranty or extending the current one (just make sure to check any exemptions)

Some costs, like tax, are fixed (though it is slightly cheaper if you pay annually) but it's worth shopping round for new insurance quotes every year, about a month before your renewal date.

Finally, think through your journey so that you can find the cheapest options for traffic charges, such as tolls, congestion charges and parking. Often, you can pay online in advance for such things and save yourself some money.

Look for ways to avoid using your own car

This might sound odd, but one of the easiest ways to save money on your car costs is to use it less!

If your place of work has a company car policy it is worth investigating this, as it could work out cheaper to have one than to run your own car.

Plan so that you can combine small trips and errands into one, rather than heading out several times a week. Maybe you could create a car pool with people who work in the same place as you, so that you can share the driving? Or, consider not using your car if you can get there by walking or on public transport, as this would definitely save money!